PittsburghMom is our original, featured blog by Heather Starr Fiedler.  Heather created PittsburghMom in March 2008 and began this journey.  Heather is the mom to two young boys, Matthew (7) and Benjamin (6), a college professor and General Manager of PittsburghMom. Think she's busy? Not too busy to blog about her sometimes serious, sometimes painful and often humorous thoughts on life.


Taking a step back

Written by Heather Starr Fiedler. Posted in PittsburghMom

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For as long as I can remember I've been very career driven. I was single until my late 20s so it forced me to focus on my career. I've always enjoyed my job as a professor and liked moving up the ranks to a tenured position, finishing my PhD and then becoming department chair of our school all before I turned 40.

It's always been important to me to show my children that women can have it all and can be in positions of power in an organization. I like being the boss and multitasking. Having a whole bunch of balls in the air fuels me.

But suddenly, one day over Christmas break, as I was snuggling with my kids and trying to answer numerous emails from students, faculty and colleagues, it suddenly occurred to me that I wasn't entirely sure I was happy.

The stress of my position was taking a toll. I started to picture my life without all of those extra jobs in it. And it was freeing. The more I pictured it, the more I started to dream of projects that I've had on my "to do" list or my "wish I could do" list but have never been able to because of the time commitment involved in my leadership role.

I did a lot of soul searching and a lot of talking - to my boss, to my husband, my mom, my friends.

And I decided to step down, and pursue other special projects at the University instead.

The career girl in me is screaming inside. I'm not sure if this path is as "good" or as prestigious as that of the Chair position. Time will tell.  But the mom in me is at peace. I will have some more time to get involved in personal and professional projects that I feel passionate about but never had time to do. I will have a lot less stress. I will read more and email less. I will make less money and have more time.

I don't know yet if I've made the right decision to seemingly take a step backwards in my career to focus on special projects and my family, but time will tell.

Right now I'm going to revel in the feeling that every time I do a big task or "put out a fire" it'll be my last time.  At least for now.

Have any of you ever chosen to take a step backwards in your career path and had mixed feelings?


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If this is rock bottom, you don't ever want to come to my house

Written by Heather Starr Fiedler. Posted in PittsburghMom

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I was given the link to this Yahoo article last night and presented with the question "Is this really rock bottom?".


To sum the article up, the author says she's going to go ahead and "take one for the team" and post her "rock bottom parenting moment caught on camera".  This rock bottom moment involves two iPads, a child in Christmas jammies in January and her 6-year-old feeding her baby a bottle.

I am speechless. (not literally, if Ii was I wouldn't be blogging)

If this is rock bottom, she certainly better never visit my house. Unless she wants to feel really good about herself.

My rock bottom is much, much lower than this. 

This is pretty much just called "Tuesday" in my house.  ;)  My 7-year-old wore Christmas jammies to bed last night, in fact (and shhhh, don't tell, but it's February!)

I feel like her article isn't so much about "taking one for the mom team and throwing herself under the bus here so that other moms can feel better about some of their own subpar parenting" but rather a thinly veiled attempt at saying "I'm really a fantastic mom 90% of the time and my bad isn't nearly as bad as your bad.

At least that's how I felt.  Like I just ate an entire cake by myself right as my skinny friend confesses that she feels terrible for eating an extra apple at lunch.

My initial reaction was to feel pretty crappy about my "rock bottom". Because, sister, it does not look like a couple of comfy kids playing on an iPad in expired Christmas jammies.

It looks more like me carrying a screaming kid out of the mall over my shoulder while he flails about because he didn't get five more minutes in the playplace.

It looks like me locking myself in the bathroom and checking my Facebook while my kids watch television or play electronics just to get some peace and quiet.

It looks like me losing my temper, a butt getting spanked and everyone crying for an hour (myself included).

It looks like me throwing away toys in anger while my children cried because they refused to clean them up.

It looks like a complete breakdown in the dentist office by my child followed by one by me in the parking lot while I called the child psychologist. 

You get the picture...I sometimes struggle as a parent. But I'm at peace with that. It's ok.  My kids are fed and clothed and loved and happy.

But honestly, what I know for absolute certain is that I most likely haven't even really hit rock bottom yet. And my rock bottom is not your rock bottom. 

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For the love of music

Written by Heather Starr Fiedler. Posted in PittsburghMom

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Last week I had the pleasure of attending my son Matthew's first orchestra concert.  He's a cellist.

I just love the way that sounds.

In our district, the students are invited to play a string instrument in the third grade and a band instrument in the fourth grade.  After going to the "tryouts" and trying the violin, viola and cello, he opted for the cello.  (He picked it because he was allowed to sit down while he played) :)

He's been taking a weekly lesson in school since September and last week was their first official concert. They played five songs. Each one lasting a total of about 30 seconds. They didn't use bows, just their fingers.  The whole thing was over in 20 minutes.

It was magical.

Of course it didn't sound like a professional orchestra. It sounded like thirty young, excited souls discovering a love of music. And the parents in the audience couldn't have been more proud.  I was beaming.

I played an instrument in school and I was always hoping my kids would play one too.  Where I went to school (a small town in New York) we did not have an orchestra, we only had band. We were given the opportunity to play in the band in fourth grade. I remember choosing the flute, because that's what all the girls did.

The next year I decided I wanted to be different. So my dear friend Carol and I switched instruments. Her to the saxophone and I to the clarinet.  We felt like rebels.  I played it all through high school in both the band and our tiny marching band.

I think it's so important for kids to develop a love for the arts and music. While I find academic pursuits important, I want to place just as much emphasis on their creative minds, their passions.

Not only is music education wonderful simply for the sake of music, but it's also proven to further other academic development.  Research has found that learning music facilitates learning other subjects and enhances skills that children inevitably use in other areas. Music education has been shown to lead to an increased IQ, aid in language development, spacial-temporal skills, improved test scores and improved memory.

Sign me up. Or rather, sign them up.

I'm just so thrilled that one of my children has found a love for music, and I'm excited for Ben do to the same when he gets old enough to choose his instrument. In the meantime, we'll keep singing and dancing and keep music in our lives. And we'll wait excitedly for the next orchestra concert. They'll be using their bows next time.  :)

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No baby, but I'm not giving up my....

Written by Heather Starr Fiedler. Posted in PittsburghMom

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I haven't changed a diaper in four years. My kids are growing up and haven't been in the baby stage for ages. But even though all of the cribs and strollers are gone, there are a couple of baby items that I think I will never let go off.

I'm not talking about sentimental things like blankets or outfits. I'm talking about actual baby products.There are a couple of products that I've discovered for just as well for "grown ups" as they do for babies, and I'm never letting them go.

The two that we use on a regular basis in my house are baby wipes and Triple Paste diaper cream.I really think the manufacturers of baby wipes are missing the boat when it comes to marketing. A baby wipe can get out just about any stain I think I've ever tried them on. We still keep boxes throughout the house and car and use them for quick cleanups. They're also great at getting out carpet stains and numerous other messy jobs. I'm not sure I will ever stop buying them, even when my kids go to college.

 On the same note, we are huge fans of Triple Paste. I know, I know, it's a diaper cream. And we don't have any diapers. But it works amazingly as a cream for dry skin or any time you need to keep moisture in. I put it on my children's hands regularly at night and they wake up in the morning with the the softest skin you can imagine. I even spoke to the pharmacist about recently it to ask her if that was okay and she told me it was a brilliant idea, so I feel justified in my craziness. :-)

So even there is no baby in my house, I still find myself in the baby aisles on a regular basis.

What baby products do you still keep around the house?

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Stay warm with Pittsburgh's best indoor family activities

Written by Heather Starr Fiedler. Posted in PittsburghMom

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I like winter as much as the next person (which is not all that much), but all of the things I love about winter like snow tubing, sledding and building snowmen, have been taken away from us by these frigid temperatures. We're not a family that likes to stay in the house all the time, so we've been working to find fun things to do while still staying warm. I've compiled some of our favorites to share with you here.

Visit a Museum

After taking a long road trip through more than a dozen states this summer, I can say with confidence that Pittsburgh has one of the best collections of family-friendly museums in the country.  The Pittsburgh Children's Museum in the North Side, is perfect for families with young children. If you haven't been in a while (or never), now is the perfect time to rediscover the magic. From art to cars to water, there's enough here to keep the kiddos entertained for at least a day.  

The Carnegie Science Center is one of our personal favorites. We've been taking the kids since they were three or four. Even if kids are too young to understand the science, they will still enjoy the plethora of hands-on activities. As they age, they will grow into the understanding of all of those "toys".  It's fun for the whole family.

If you've got kids that are interested in history or dinosaurs, The Carnegie Museums of Art and Natural History really give visitors the most bang for their buck.  One admission fee gets you into both museums. The Natural History Museum is famous for its awe-inspiring dinosaur exhibits as well as other favorites like gem and polar worlds.  While you're there, don't be afraid to take your kids to the Museum of Art. I was terrified my kids would touch something and avoided the museum for years. When we did finally attempt it this year we were all pleasantly surprised. They give the kids art activities and the whole family can listen to audio guides to learn more about the paintings. It was really the highlight of our day.

Children's Museum Admission is $13 for adults and $12 for kids

Carnegie Science Center Admission is $19 for adults and $12 for kids
Carnegie Museums of Art & Natural History Admission is $18 for adults and $12 for kids

Feed the Birds

Winter is a great time to pay a visit to the penguins at the National Aviary.  Tucked away almost too quietly on the North Side, the Aviary underwent a multi-million dollar expansion just a couple of years ago.  Whether you're interested in penguins, tropical birds or birds of prey, they have it all.  We especially enjoy the bird shows in the new FliteZone theater and the daily bird feedings.  The Aviary is open daily 10-5.

National Aviary Admission is $13 for adults and $11 for kids


Take a Bike Ride

If your kids are like mine, they spend countless hours in the summer riding their bikes. They are going through bike-riding withdrawal over the winter months.  Luckily for us, if we're feeling a little adventurous, we can rectify that. Pittsburgh's' very first indoor bicycle skate park, The Wheel Mill, opened last year.  The Wheel Mill, located just off of Washington Boulevard in Homewood, offers ramps of all shapes and sizes for every level rider. Kids and adults can rent bikes or just bring their own bikes and pay a fee to ride for the day.  Sounds like fun!

Weekend passes for all-day riding are $26 for adults and $17 for kids.  bike rentals extra. Weekday pricing is lower



Go for a Swim

Obviously, the first thing that comes to mind when we think of getting away from the cold is hopping on a plane to somewhere closer to the equator.  Unfortunately that's not usually possible, so we'll have to make due here in the Burgh.  Nothing feels more like summer than putting on my itsy bitsy teeny weeny yellow polka dot bikini (ok, who are we kidding, it's more like a respectable tankini with full skirt). There are actually several options available to the public to take a dip in a warm pool during the winter months without having a gym membership. 

The Upper St. Clair Athletic Club has a wonderful indoor pool, complete with lazy river and play structure. It's open to the public with a daily entry fee of $12.

The Carnegie Athletic Club of Homestead has an indoor pool and offers day passes for just $10 for an individual or $15 for a family of 4 for the day.

The Kingsley Assocation on Frankstown Avenue opens its pool to the public every day but Sunday for a daily entry fee of just $5.

Olympic Swim and Health Club, located 20 minutes east of the city, offers public passes for its indoor pool for a $5 guest fee

The historic Oliver Bath House is the best bargain in town, offering a daily swim pass for just $3 for kids and $4 for adults. The Bath House is located in the South Side of Pittsburgh.


Play with Toys

If you're in the mood for a little drive and want to see something really cool, head on up to Butler to visit Playthings, Etc.  Billed by locals as the “coolest toy store in the world”, this Butler, PA toy store is shaped like a stealth bomber which just makes you want to go in and explore. Playthings has an inventory of over 3,000 toys ranging from RC cars to toddler toys. Employees will often give demonstrations of fun toys like pogo sticks and rocket ships. Even if you just go look and play with the samples, it's a fun road trip. Playthings, Etc. is located at 2483 William Flinn Hwy, Butler, PA 16001.  They are open from 10-8 on Saturday.  Closed Sunday

E2 Toys2Try, located in Bridgeville, is another fun toy store/playplace for the younger set.  You can shop for unique and specialty toys while enjoying complimentary coffee, tea and wifi while the kids play in the indoor/outdoor playground.  They are open 10-5:30 on Saturdays (call ahead to check playground hours). The playground cost $8 for the first child and $6 for additional children.


Get Your Game On

The Robert Morris University Island Sports Center is a 32 acre state of the art sports and recreation center on Neville Island. With indoor ice skating and golf dome, there's something for the whole family.  When the weather breaks, families can take the fun outside for mini golf.

Ice skating is also available at several local Bladerunners locations (Bethel Park, Harmarville and Warrendale). All locations have a public skate session at least twice a week.  Public skate pricing is generaly $6 for adults and $5 for kids (skate rental is an additional $3)

You can also find a couple of indoor glow in the dark mini golf courses in the region. The Pittsburgh Mills mall is home to Shot in the Dark Indoor Mini Golf.  It's also worth a trip out to Monroeville to visit Monster Mini Golf.  Shot in the Dark will cost you $7 for adults and $6 or 5 for kids (depending on age).  A round of 18 holes at Monster Mini Golf is $9 for adults and $8 for kids.  

If you're more the tennis type, check out the Citiparks Mellon Tennis Center on 5th Avenue.  The bubble allows the public to book court time, but also offer drop in lessons for kids and adults. It's a great way to spend a Saturday morning.  
Kids 1-hour lessons are $10, adults are $12.  

Climb a Wall

What better way to stop climbing the walls than to start climbing walls!? The Climbing Wall, located on Penn Avenue,  offers 14,000 square feet of rock climbing for the whole family (age 6 and up).  
The Climbing Wall is open on the weekends from 10-6 (weekdays until as late as 11). Day passes cost $12 for adults and $10 for kids

Climb North is located inside Jewarts Gymnastics in the North Hills by North Park. Dubbed the "little wall", Climb North offers 5,000 square feet of climbing space. 
Climb North is open on the Saturdays from 11-5 and Sundays from 11-4 . A day pass cost $15 for adults and $10 for kids.


Roll with the Punches

When is the last time you went roller skating?  Yea, I don't remember either. But I know I skated with a cute boy to the couples skate and fell on my butt clapping too excitedly during one special song..."Private Eyes (clap) are Watching You (clap clap)"

Romp-n-Roll is a fun throwback roller rink in Gibsonia that offers both traditional and inline skate rental. They offer public sessions every weekend and it's great fun for the whole family.  The DJ is especially fun (and looks like he's straight out of 1954).  They even host Roller Derby matches there each month.  
Public Skate admission is $6 plus skate rental.


Bowl 'em Over

Everyone loves to bowl, don't they? It's a great indoor winter activity for the entire family.  There are many bowling alleys in the Pittsburgh region. I'll share a few with you.  Fun Fest in Harmar is your standard bowling alley/arcade/laser tag fun center that is a huge hit with the kids. What we like about it is the availability of coupons. Never go to Fun Fest without a coupon!  They are always available on their website.  They have daily specials that often include unlimited bowling and laser tag for 2 hours for $10 (Monday evenings) or family specials like 2 hours of bowling, shoes, pizza and pop for 6 people for $33. (Mon-Thurs).  

Other bowling lanes in Pittsburgh include Arsenal Lanes in Lawrenceville, Forward Lanes in Squirrel Hill, Pines Plaza Lanes in the North Hills, Legacy Lanes in Baldwin, Noble Manor Lanes in Greentree, Mt. Lebanon Lanes in Mt. Lebo and Nesbits' Lanes in Plum Boro.

Build a Lego Masterpiece

Everyone love to build with Legos, right?  Thanks to Snapology, everyone has the chance to build their own Lego masterpiece each week during Lego Lab open play in their newly opened Discovery Center in the South Hills.  Snapology offers classes, camps and workshops at both the South Hills Discovery Center or their Monroeville Mall location. Or you can simply visit the Discovery Center every weekend from 12-5 and play for just $5 per hour.  It's a great way to spend a cold weekend afternoon.


Make Art

There are several options for making and painting pottery in the Pittsburgh region. Color Me Mine in Squirrel Hill has been around for years and offers kids and adults to join together in the making of a masterpiece.  Katie's Clay Studio on Route 8 in Gibsonia opened just a few years ago and also offers kids and adults the opportunity to paint a piece of pottery to take home. 

Our personal favorite art studio in the area is Little House Big Art. We love it because you can not only paint pottery, but also make your own buttons, make shrinky dinks, paint wooden pets, picture frames, make melty bead masterpieces, make jewelry and paint a variety of other items. They also have supplies for just about every other art project you could imagine, and friendly staff to help inspire and guide you through your ideas. And everything is extremely reasonably priced, so you won't go broke making your masterpiece.
Little House Big Art is located on the North Side and is open Saturday 11-8 and Saturday 1-7.


Whatever option you choose, I wish you warm thoughts and safe travels.

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